John Kemp’s Kitchen: The Big Mac and Big Margins - A Guide to Food Costing

 Photo: Lauren Clewes

Photo: Lauren Clewes

Being a student is tough. As much as the university and social experience is enlightening and transformative, it includes tight deadlines and being on your own for the first time, which can be incredibly stressful. The biggest source of stress for most students living on their own is money, especially when it comes to sourcing out sustenance. So, what to do when money’s tight and you need to eat? Cheap fast food, right? Mickey D’s perhaps? Let me give you a heads-up: it’s cheaper, healthier, and plain-old tastier when you cook for yourself. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at an example.

We are going to compare the price of a McDonald’s Big Mac to making a similar burger yourself. We will “food cost” (calculate how much exactly one serving costs to make) and compare the prices at the end (tax not included).

The general formula here is:

[(price of item) ÷ (the total number of grams/mL/etc. purchased)] x (number of grams/mL/etc. you’re using for the recipe)

 

INGREDIENT & AMOUNT NEEDED:

 

1 ½ burger buns (one top, two bottoms)    

Pack of 8 buns for $2.47    

$2.47 ÷ 8 = $0.31/bun

$0.31 x 1.5 buns = $0.46  

     

90 g. ground beef

450 g. for $6    

$6.00 ÷ 450 = $0.01/g.

$0.01 x 90 g. = $0.90

 

1 egg yolk

12 eggs for $1.97

$1.97 ÷ 12 = $0.16/egg    

$0.16 x 1 egg = $0.16     

 

30 g. bread crumbs

425 g. for $1.58

$1.58 ÷ 425 = $0.01/g.

$0.01 x 30 g. = $0.30

 

15 g. onion

1361 g. for $1.47

$1.47 ÷ 1361= $0.001/g.

$0.001 x 15 g. = $0.01    

 

30 mL Thousand island dressing (to replace “special sauce” – it’s the same thing)

476 mL for $1.57

$1.57 ÷ 476 = $0.01/mL    

$0.01 x 30 mL = $0.30    

 

2 slices processed cheese

24 slices for $2.84

$2.84 ÷ 24 = $0.11/slice

$0.11 x 2 slices = $0.22    

 

20 g. dill pickles (about 2 slices)

500 g. for $2.47    

$2.47 ÷ 500 = $0.004/g, about $0.04/slice

$0.04 x 2 slices = $0.08    

 

40 g. iceberg lettuce, shredded    

$1.37 for about 540 g.

$1.37 ÷ 540 g. = $0.002/g.    

$0.002 x 40 g. = $0.08    

 

Salt and pepper to taste   

                    (negligible)

 

TOTAL:

$2.51

 

$2.51. I know what you’re thinking: “So what, John? That’s still not cheap. Why did I even bother to read this?”. To that, I say, have you seen the price of a Big Mac lately? Currently in Canada, the price of a Big Mac retails for just over $5.00, which is more than double the price of making it yourself. You could even make some fries and get a drink, making it the “meal”, and still have a cheaper meal than the sandwich alone from McDonald’s.

I’m not telling you to go home and make burgers all day and boycott fast food restaurants forever, but what I am saying is to keep in mind that fast food restaurants are just that: restaurants, which are businesses, and a business exists to make money. Although they may be cheaper than eating at Ruth’s Chris or Canoe every night, they’re definitely not exempt from the fact that it’s cheaper to make your own food. So, next time you hear that pizza, burger, or chow mein calling your name, don’t forget that you’re not saving a single buck, but instead you might be paying more than double.